Sky cancels BSkyB bid as-it-happened
Don't miss a second of a historic day in parliament with politics.co.uk's minute-by-minute guide.
By Ian Dunt Follow @IanDunt
10:42 – Good morning and welcome to what is certain to be a minor historic moment in the history of parliament. Last week I finished this blog by saying that for the first time in memory parliamentarians seemed to have cast off the spell of Rupert Murdoch and were rising to lambast the media mogul with all the righteous indignation they could muster. Well, seven days later, and those first, hesitant steps have turned into a full-blown war. Today, MPs will vote for Murdoch to cancel the BSkyB bid. It has no legally binding repercussions but the vote will be carefully watched by the markets and it has a concrete political reality, which is that Murdoch's fall from grace will be complete. He will now be fundamentally at odds with Britain's political class – a thought that was unimaginable just a fortnight ago. It's one of the most significant power upheavals that British politics has seen for a generation – arguably more seminal than a general election. If that's not worth keeping an eye on I don't know what is.
11:15 – Well the big news is that David Cameron seems very unlikely to speak at the debate today, although he may take part in the vote. He'll be appearing for PMQs, obviously, then giving a statement announcing the inquiries immediately afterwards. That should give us a date for the media inquiry, by the way, which we're expecting this summer, and possibly reveal the process by which the judge will be chosen for the phone-hacking inquiry, which will start once criminal proceedings are over. Then the debate should kick off about 4ish and end at 7ish, but this is parliament so no promises from me. When we come back to the debate the prime minister will apparently be gone, like some subtle waft of smoke. His spokesman is trying to put a brave spin on it, saying it would be "absurd" for him to speak at the debate, where he would ultimately be repeating what he's said earlier. In terms of parliamentary procedure, there's nothing to stop him doing this. It doesn't matter who responds to Ed Miliband. But in terms of basic politics it seems deeply unwise. The PM's decision to give yet another speech on the 'big society' while the Commons debated Murdoch earlier this week made him look as if he didn't have any control over events. The fact that he's again staying away from parliament for a central event in the British political calendar compounds the generally mistaken response he's adopted to the phone-hacking scandal. But then we don't know what's been said behind closed doors. Ed Miliband has gone so far out of his way to attack Murdoch that any News International retaliation in the press would be plain for all to see and therefore ignored. Cameron is still in the danger zone, because he won't be so strongly linked to the scandal. Perhaps he's worried that they will remember his actions now, and punish him for it later, without the public putting two and two together. But then, he is ordering his MPs to vote against Murdoch. How much worse could it get? Whatever else, the prime minister has not shown leadership or confidence in dealing with the phone-hacking scandal. He is having a bad crisis.
11:55 – Just five minutes to go. Andrew Mitchell, international development secretary, is being entirely unconvincing in a way only he can manage. This is the most important PMQs of Cameron's career and he starts on the back foot. Can he save himself?
11:57 – Cameron has sat down, along with Nick Clegg. Both look relaxed and calm. Sir George Young, who will probably answer for the government during the debate later, looks supremely zen, in a manner no other parliamentarian can quite acquire. George Osborne, chancellor, more than slightly damaged, is leaning forward, shouting abuse at the Labour benches. He takes this sort of thing terribly seriously, an oddly un-Tory characteristic.
12:00 – OK. Best PMQs of the year. You ready? Here we go.
12:01 – Duncan Hames (LD, self-important) recaps the actions of the NOTW. Are they the actions of a fit and proper person. Cameron says it's a powerful point. There's a firestorm engulfing the media, the police and the political system's ability to respond. We need to think about the victims. Miliband's up. Huge cheers. His biggest ever. He says he met the Dowler family yesterday.
12:02 – Does the PM agree it's an insult to the family that Rebekah Brooks is still at NI? Cameron says he's "made it clear" that her resignation should have been accepted. "What has happened at this company is disgraceful and they should stop thinking about mergers when they need to sort the situation they've created". Miliband is very calm, he is fully in charge. Cameron is dancing to his tune. Amazing stuff. "If the Commons speaks with one voice today – and I hope he will still come to the debate – Rupert Murdoch should listen to the House of Commons."
12:04 – "I look forward to debating these issues with the leader of the House," Miliband says coldly. Smart subtle attack. He asks if Cameron agrees that if editors are to give evidence under oath then so should current and former politicans. Cameron says his meeting with Miliband was "excellent" last night. He will accept Miliband's amendments. The terms of reference are currently in draft terms. He wants Dowler family approval. "The relationship between politicians and the media must change and we must be more transparent too. I'll be setting out some proposals for exactly that in a minute or two." Very interesting. Sounds like Cameron will call for all high level meetings with media to be put on record.
12:07 – Miliband makes a serious accusation about Cameroon's decision to hire Andy Coulson despite Guardian warnings. Cameron says Coulson gave the same assurance to him that he gave to a court of law and a select committee. "You are innocent until proven guilty." Cameron says the Guardian did not pass on information to him. He says almost all of it had already been printed in the Guardian. It did not link Coulson to illegal behaviour. "It wasn't drawn to my attention by my office. I met the editor of the Guardian and he didn't raise it with me once. If this information is so significant why have I not been asked one question about it in a press conference or in this House." Labour is incandescent with rage. "If I was lied to, it will be a matter of deep regret and a matter of criminal prosecution," Cameroon says. Bercow struggles to maintain order, the noise is impossible. "The PM has just made a very important admission," Miliband says. He says he's admitted his chief of staff was given information about criminal conspiracy. "This evidence casts serious doubt" on Coulson's assurances about isolated phone-hacking. What will Cameron do against his chief of staff, given the information wasn't passed on.
12:10 – Cameron mentions Tom Baldwin, Miliband press adviser. Bad, sloppy move. "He just doesn't get it," Miliband replies. He repeats it. The Commons is in uproar. "He was warned by the deputy prime minister, he was warned by Lord Ashdown, he has now admitted in the Commons today his chief of staff was given complete evidence that contradicted Coulson previous account" he adds. He wants full information published by Cameron and an apology for his "catastrophic error of judgement". Cameron says the leader of the opposition is the one that's not getting it. The public want an end to corruption. "They are entitled to ask, when these problems went on for so many years, when was the police investigation that didn't work." Cameron ends with: "That is the leadership I'm determined to provide."
12:13 – Incredible scenes in the Commons. MPs completely ignoring Bercow as he shouts for order. The noise was immense. Finally he says: "I say to the children's minister… he should start behaving like an adult". Later, he threatens to throw an MP out the Commons altogether. "Will the PM is asked give evidence to the judge-led inquiry?" an MP asks. Cameron says he will.
12:15 – The noise after that Cameron/Miliband exchange was intended to show Conservative support for the prime minister. It's a sign, actually, of his vulnerability, not his strength. I just can't tell you how terrible the expressions on the government front bench were as Cameron spoke. He looked positively nervous, as if he could feel the damage being done. Osborne looked horririfed. Clegg looked, well, glum. No change there. Cameron is being asked more questions about Coulson. "If I was lied to that will be a matter of deep regret," he replies. I thought for a moment during the debate that Cameron was going to survive the Coulson attack but his use of Baldwin and his poor defence of the Coulson decision was just too pitiful. Miliband: 3 Cameron: 0.
12:18 – Cameron is asked by Tom Watson (Lab, leader on phone-hacking) asks if Cameron will pass on any details about the alleged hacking of 9/11 victims families to his American colleagues. Cameron says he will. He says that Sue Akers, who is leading the current police operation Weeting, acquitted herself well at the home affairs committee yesterday. He says it was a "mixed" session, suggesting he was also horrified by Hayman's testimony. Cameron is asked if he talked with Coulson about phone-hacking when he resigned. Cameron accuses her of having her question written for her. Every Tory question is on another topic. Every Labour question is on phone-hacking.
12:22 – We've got a Plaid MP!!! The excitement. What will he ask? Boots, apparently. And the price of sending them to troops, I think. Got a bit lost there. We just got our first angry Tory MP on phone-hacking. Brave new world, that has such people in it. Margaret Hodge (Lab, problematic) asks about aircraft carrier decisions. Cameron is delirious with happiness and attacks away on a subject he's more comfortable with.
12:26 – It appears Tom Crone, NI's head of legal affairs, has left the company. Interesting development. Guardian editor Alan Rusbridge just tweeted this: "Cam admits office warned. Red herring abt other mtgs with Gdn. One was group mtg *after* warning to discuss election."
12:28 – There's a lot of support for Cameron right wingers in the Twittersphere. Others are being more cautious and warning that by admitting his chief of staff did receive information he may have opened up a new flank. That was certainly Miliband's view, and he honed in on it instantly. More on this later, when we get a chance to catch our breath. Rusbridger just tweeted this, by the way: "Second meeting was *after* Coulson had gone. Also just *not* true re Guardian warning. It had important new details."
12:32 – Cameron says he feels sorry for what happened to Brown. He says all politicians were too cowardly to fight back when their bins were searched etc. He confirms there were no pre-existing plans for an inquiry when he arrived in Downing Street. By the way, I think it was the Mirror that went through his bin. Cameron just said that there will be one inquiry with two parts to it with one judge in charge. And fittingly, Bercow calls for Cameron's statement.
12:34 – Cameron says we all want the same thing – press, police and politicians who serve the public. After meetings with Clegg, Miliband and committee chairs he's come to certain conclusions. First, on the criminal investigation. He goes over the massive amount of evidence the operation is looking at. He says the team have so far made eight arrests. Here's what the government is doing. We need a full investigation into failure in the press and police and second a review of behaviour in the press. One inquiry in two parts is the best solution. Lord Justice Leveson (not sure I spelt that right) will lead it. It will have the power to summon witnesses – from media to police and politicians, and proprietors. A senior set of independent figures in media, broadcasting, regulation and government will look into press culture, contact with police and politicians, why previous warnings were not heeded and the issue of cross-media ownership. He will recommend a new regulatory system, that protects independence but ensures standards. He will also recommend on contacts. The second part of the inquiry will examine the extent of unlawful behaviour at NOTW and if management allowed it. It will look at the failure of the first police investigation and relationships between media and the police. Phew. "No-one should be in any doubt of our intension to get to the bottom of the truth."
12:39 – On BSkyB: Serious questions must be asked, Cameron says. He reminds the House it's going to the Competition Commission. The relevant authorities can now take an exhaustive look. The media secretary will then take the decision. "We are and we must follow the law," he says. "In my view this business should not be followed on mergers and takeovers but on clearing up the mess and getting their house in order and that is what the House will do tonight." He says the people involved must be brought to justice and have no future role in running a media company in the UK. And now we're on media/police relations.
12:41 – The Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) will examine payments to police. The home secretary has asked for a further report from them on payments to police. The judicial inquiry will assess the relations between media and police. Meanwhile, the commissioner of the Met will employ a figure to advise on making the relationship more transparent. Cameron says this will apply to politicians too. There will be an amendment to the ministerial code so all meetings are recorded between senior politicians and senior journalists. "It is a first for our country. It will help make the UK government one of the most transparent in the world." He wants this to be cross-party. Cameron says he's about to meet the Dowler family. "They want their politicians to bring this ugly chapter to a close."
12:44 – Miliband is up. He thanks the PM. He welcomes the inquiry and asks if it will be up and running before the recess (next Tuesday). Will it now be an offence to destroy documents related to it and what will he do to preserve documents in Downing Street? Miliband says he wanted a single judge-led inquiry. How does he envisage the judge and panel working together. "It's right the government has now decided to follow our advice." Some complaints from the government benches.
12:46 – Miliband says he need to consider whether we should stick with self-regulation of the press (Miliband's view – not Cameron's as far as I know). Miliband welcomes taking cross-media ownership into the inquiry. He says the forthcoming communications act could legislate for the recommendations of the inquiry – why not bring it forward from its current 2015 slot. He wants the transparency move to be retrospective so Cameron publishes all the details of the meetings he had. very good move by Miliband there.
12:49 – Cameron: The inquiry will start as soon as possible. Anyone destroying evidence is breaking the law vis-a-vis the criminal investigation anyway. On media regulation, he prefers "independent regulation rather than self-regulation. Self-regulation has a bad name now. I don't want to move to a world of full statutory regulation." Very interesting. "I hope we don't get into a bidding war so let's shoot for independent regulation if we can." Cameron really striving to be cross-party here. On transparency, he's consulting on it. He says he might even include meetings with journalists as well. That's serious. He doesn't quite answer on retrospective.
12:52 – John Whittingdale, chair of the culture committee, says it wasn't just newspapers that were responsible for these activities. It was also newspapers that revealed them. Excellent point. I could kiss him, despite the four chins. Cameron delivers the customary defence of a free press. Ben Bradshaw (Lab, dashing, should've stuck with the BBC) reminds Cameron that he told him he would only look "pretty for a day" when he suggested sending BSkyB to the Competition Committee. Does he regret it. Cameron defends himself, not entirely successfully. He reminds Bradshaw he was culture secretary and therefore not entirely immune from blame. Very good point. Simon Hughes thanks the PM for his decisions and reminds the House that these are long-term Lib Dem demands, True, but no-one cares right now. The failure of the Lib Dems to really grasp this one will be the subject of study when the proper storm blows over.
12:56 – Jack Straw says the judge is a man of "integrity". Not a good sign. Nicola Blackwood (Con, troublingly attractive) asks about phone companies. "It takes two to blag," Cameron says, in agreement. Keith Vaz (Lab, chair of the home affairs committee, slippery) asks if the Met can have more resources for Operation Weeting. Him and Cameron pat each other's backs a bit, by the way, but you're best off not having the details to that. It's quite unappetising. Nicky Morgan (Con, barely controlled shuddering) highlights the extent of the damage of the last ten days.
13:04 – Tom Watson says he's slightly embarrassed to have to commend all three party leaders. Will the judge be allowed access to the intelligence services and their information. They have dealings with NI, or are alleged to. Cameron says he can take the inquiry wherever he wishes. "We do want some early results, we do want some early harvest," Cameron says. Robert Buckland (Con, inadvertently camouflaged by his own personality). William McCrea (DUP, as angry as they usually are) is irritated that he wasn't consulted.
13:08 – Cameron says he had the conversation about phone-hacking with Coulson "all the time". Julian Huppert (LD, from Hobbiton) asks something but I wasted my time trying to see the size of his feet. Paul Farrelly (Lab, inexplicably assured) reminds the House that the Americans have tougher regulation around media ownership than we do. Cameron reminds him it was his government which allowed US companies to take over UK ones in the media. Dennis Skinner (Lab, caricature of himself) says Murdoch had power because of his news outlets. "He [Cameron] said he didn't want to strip Murdoch or anyone else of those titles, will he then include in the terms of reference" to allow the judge to ensure no-one should be allowed more than one title or TV station. Cameron says there's nothing wrong about someone having more than one station – we just need decent plurality regulation. "This has to be a government of the law," he says. That's the executive summary of his statements today.
13:15 – Tony Baldry (Con, voice so gravely it's nearly silent to the human ear) asks if blagging is against the law. Cameron thinks it is. Downing Street is briefing that Cameron didn't read that Guardian article with information on Coulson's contacts. None of the MPs here are bringing that up and there's considerable anger about that on Twitter. Guardian columnist George Monbiot just wrote: "They're letting Cameron off the hook. Are there any MPs who understand the concept of cross-examination?"
13:18 – Graham Stuart (Con, impressive) is making the attack on politicians cosying up to media moguls cross party by agreeing with what Skinner said. Cameron says: "The relationship got unhealthy, it was too close. But we're not all going to become monks and live in a monastery. We do still have a duty to explain our policies. Democracy is government by explanation."Really? I thought it was to do with voting. David Lammy (Lab, underperforms) asks if Theresa May should have said John Yates did a good job. Cameron says he does an extraordinary job. He asks Lammy to admit it would be dangerous if politicians could finger individual police officers as easily as that. "Clearly as he himself said he's got some questions to answer about the original investigation," he admits, however. Tessa Munt (LD, absurd) asks that the taxpayer doesn't have to pay the pension of a police officer who is found to be corrupt. Cameron says he'll look into it.
13:24 – Adrian Bailey (Lab, bit part in the Archers) wants contempt of parliament to be made a criminal charge. Cameron says he'll get Sir George Young to look into it. It's an important point. As things stand, people who lie to or refuse to attend select committees face this charge, but it has no real consequence. Unless you're an MP of course, in which case it will destroy your career. Jack Dromey (Lab, apparently female) attacks Cameron and asks if he regrets employing someone who "clearly wasn't a fit and proper person". Cameron says he's already given a full answer to that.
13:29 – Cameron is told to apply balanced impartial reporting to all media. Idiocy. The man's trying to destroy my career! "I do want the newspaper to understand this is not a government that wants to leap in to statutory regulation." Thank God Cameron's got some part of his head screwed on straight. And immediately afterwards he's back trying to spray some of the bad feelings on Miliband with another attack on Tom Baldwin, whose alleged crimes are pitiful in comparison with Coulson. Really cheap politics.
13:31 – Cameron is finally asked about what he knew about Coulson. He evades. The anger online is misdirected. It's very hard to pin someone down with just one question. He's asked if he will answer questions about Coulson at the inquiry. He says he'll go whenever they ask and answer about anything as long as he remembers. It's pointed out to Cameron that the Crown Prosecution Services (CPS) has questions to answer about the first police inquiry too. Very good point there. Cameron accepts it.
13:35 – Kevin Brennan (Lab, like a portly Clarke Kent) asks if foreign proprietors will be compelled to attend the inquiry. Cameron says he doesn't see why not. Cameron reminds the House that a free press is in the terms of reference. He's very keen to make that point clear. Hot potatoes don't get much hotter than this one. Matthew Hancock (Con, blah) asks a tedious question about the culture of journalism. Nick Smith (Lab, harmless in a career-destroying way) asks whether the police have enough resources. Cameron reminds him its one of the biggest police operations in the country… and the Olympics next year means they're somewhat concerned with other events as well. Fair enough. Eric Ollerenshaw (Con, drastic) says the issue shouldn't be restricted to just the Met. The problems stretch across all police forces. Cameron says the inquiry is for all police forces, but the Met commissioner is employing a transparency adviser to show other forces best practice.
13:44 – Cameron is asked what he knows about a possible US charge on the Foreign and Corrupt Practises Act. This could apply to police payments made in the UK as News Corp files its accounts in the US. They would have had to put the payments in their book as 'bribe' though, so I wouldn't hold your breath too much. Some reports on the net suggest that the Securities and Exchange Commission could go after it for keeping fake records if it's put under 'admin costs' but that requires you to prove that, well, it really was a bribe and not an administrative cost.
13:53 – And with that the session comes to an end, with defence secretary Liam Fox discussing the Chinook accident. I'm going to catch my breath for a moment, but I'll be back soon with more developments and analysis.
14:14 – Breaking news: News Corp has dropped its bid for BSkyB. I'll bring you more details as soon as I have them.
14:16 – The news is spinning all over the web and news channels now. What does this mean to the debate today? Well frankly, who cares? This is much bigger than that. This is huge. Full control of BSkyB was a massive cash-creation machine for Murdoch. He would have basically controlled pay TV in the UK. And he could have bundled up the Sun, Times, broadband and pay-TV subscriptions into an entertainment and news product which could have tackled the BBC. This is a seminal moment in the history of the British media. It consolidates the position of the BBC as the primary news and entertainment provider in Britain and means that public service broadcasting's greatest threat has fallen apart.
14:22 – There are newsrooms across the country rapidly rewriting their front page right now. Obviously the debate in the Commons today will not be anything like what we expected. Presumably there'll be a quick statement of victory and that'll wrap the thing up. We'll keep the blog running as we assess the way the news is greeted across Westminster though.
14:28 – News Corp just released the following statement: "News Corporation ("News Corp") announces that it no longer intends to make an offer for the entire issued and to be issued share capital of British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC ("BSkyB") not already owned by it. Chase Carey, Deputy Chairman, President and Chief Operating Officer, News Corporation, commented: "We believed that the proposed acquisition of BSkyB by News Corporation would benefit both companies but it has become clear that it is too difficult to progress in this climate. News Corporation remains a committed long-term shareholder in BSkyB. We are proud of the success it has achieved and our contribution to it."
14:33 – Sky reports that Clegg has said the decision is "decent" and "sensible". Ivan Lewis, shadow media secretary, just told the BBC: "It's a victory for the public of this country, it's a victory for parliament and it's a victory for the tremendous leadership that Ed Miliband has shown."
14:38 – Labour frontbencher Diane Abbot tweets: "Murdoch withdraws bid for BSkyB. A result." John Prescott tweets: "So BSkyB bid over. PCC to be abolished. Senior News International staff arrested. Inquiry into police and press on its way. Yep. I'm happy." A source close to Vince Cable, who once declared war on Murdoch, has told the BBC that it was "absolutely the right thing to do". Sky shares are now down to 665p. I'm hearing the decision was taken before PMQs. Did David Cameron know?
14:43 – Downing Street welcomes News Corp's decisions, repeating Cameron's line that Sky must "focus on getting their house in order". As I type this I'm doing an interview on Latin American radio on the cancellation, using my brutal efforts at the language. It's actually rather distracting. I'll get right back to it. One moment.
14:56 – OK, that's done. Sorry for the delay. Here's Ed Miliband's comment: "A victory for people up and down this country who have been appalled by the phone hacking scandal." In a moment we'll discuss what this means for Miliband's leadership, because it's plain that this is the absolute high-point of his time in charge of the Labour party. First let's try to keep up with the reaction.
14:58 – The Commons debate will go ahead "as planned" by the way. We'll stick to it for the start, but probably end the blog at around half five, unless there are any new developments, which, you know, there might be.
15:01 – Tom Watson, who has been fighting the phone-hacking fight longer than anyone really, has been speaking to Sky News. "When you had the three parties united in saying withdraw this bid, what else could they do?" he said. He calls for lobby briefings to be put on the record as they are in the States. That'll be forcefully opposed by most of the people who work here in parliament. I agree with it entirely, for what it's worth. This, after all, is the end of the way we do business. Things are about to change significantly for us in the press.
15:08 – Here's the full Miliband statement: "This is a victory for people up and down this country who have been appalled by the revelations of the phone hacking scandal and the failure of News International to take responsibility. People thought it was beyond belief that Mr Murdoch could continue with his takeover after these revelations. It is these people who won this victory. They told Mr Murdoch: ‘This far and no further'. Nobody should exercise power in this country without responsibility."
15:12 – There's a major attack happening in Mumbai by the way. Three simultaneous bombs in the financial district have killed at least eight people. Expect that number to climb. That was from an early report. The debate in parliament is going ahead without a vote, I've heard. The wording of the motion can't be changed because it's on the order paper.
15:14 – Just got statements in from the Liberal Democrats. First, deputy leader, Simon Hughes: "My colleagues and I have been warning for 17 years of the dangers of the growing influence of the Murdochs in Britain. Three days ago the most popular Murdoch title disappeared – ruined by the excesses of some of its staff. Today the News International bid for BSkyB has been withdrawn. At last the sun is setting on Rupert Murdoch's British empire. Journalism in the UK used to have the reputation as the best in the world. It is in the interests of all the public that this reputation is now restored." And here's media spokesperson Don Foster: "This is a huge victory for the British people who forced politicians to take action. While I welcome this announcement, it doesn't remove the urgent need to address issues including the ineffectiveness of the PCC, rules around media ownership, the 'fit and proper' rule and wider issues of plurality. It's vital that the inquiry now goes ahead. We must get to the bottom of the wrong doing that has taken place, bringing those who have broken the law to justice while protecting and promoting a free and open press which can rightly hold people to account."
15:19 – John Whittingdale, chair of the culture, media and sport select committee, says it was "undoubtedly the right decision". Meanwhile, here's the full statement from BSkyB: "BSkyB notes News Corporation's announcement that it no longer intends to make an offer for the entire issued and to be issued share capital of BSkyB not already owned by News Corporation. The board believes BSkyB has a compelling investment case and significant growth opportunities, as demonstrated by its excellent operational and financial performance and strong balance sheet which provides both strategic and financial flexibility. Commenting on the announcement, Jeremy Darroch, BSkyB's chief executive, said: "We are delivering on our clear, consistent strategy and are building a larger, more profitable business for the long term. We remain very confident in the broadly based growth opportunity for BSkyB as we continue to add new customers, sell more products, develop our leading position in content and innovation, and expand the contribution from our other businesses. I would like to commend all our employees for their unrelenting focus throughout the offer period and thank them for their continuing support." Nicholas Ferguson, BSkyB's deputy chairman and senior independent non-executive director, added: "Since the start of the offer period, BSkyB's management team has remained fully focused on its strategic and operational priorities, as evidenced in the strong results reported for the first nine months of the financial year. With good momentum and a range of options for continued growth, BSkyB is well positioned to increase earnings and cash flow and deliver higher returns for shareholders." BSkyB will announce its preliminary results for the 12 months ended 30 June 2011 on 29 July 2011. As previously announced, Jeremy Darroch and Andrew Griffith, chief financial officer, will give a presentation on the results for the period to UK analysts and investors. There will be a separate conference call for US analysts and investors.
15:24 – The Dowler family just left Downing Street with members of Hacked off. Their solicitor say the family is grateful for their meeting with the PM. "The Dowlers are delighted the PM has announced a full judge-led inquiry and they're particularly pleased politicians from all three parties have liaised and reacted so quickly."
15:28 – Former Lib Dem MP Dr Evan Harris adds: "We can find no distinction between all three parties… in terms of their commitment to get to the bottom of what's happened." A Hacked Off activist says that they pushed the PM on the process of the inquiry, including raising a concern that part one (on phone-hacking) should serve to supply part two (media ethics) with the facts it will use for its recommendations. That's a good point actually, and not one that the PM seemed to recognise when he called for an "early harvest". The campaigners says the PM took it on board though. Hacked Off wants an initial report on part two to be followed by a final report after part one of the inquiry concludes, a little later.
15:30 – The Dowler solicitor is asked how the family feel about the BSkyB news. He says it shows that however big an organisation is it is important to stand up and say: "This is not right." Harris says the Hacked Off campaign doesn't have a line on the BSkyB bid. Did they envisage that the phone-hacking news would have such far-reaching implications? "It's an earth-shattering week for everyone concerned," The Dowler solicitor says. "The public are speaking."
15:38 – Whittingdale is telling the BBC that he expects a response from the Murdochs and Brooks about whether they will appear for his committee next week either tonight or tomorrow morning at the latest.
15:41 – Evidently our judge leading the phone-hacking inquiry (Lord Justice Leveson) is quite poetic. He just put out a statement saying: "At the heart of this inquiry…may be one simple question: who guards the guardians?"
15:51 – Shares in News Corp have started to rally. You still get the sense that the market doesn't know what to do with the news, but the markets do always like certainty so a big move seems to have halted some of the slide. Don't listen to these voices saying Murdoch has somehow won something here though. The loss is real and huge.
15:55 – Plaid Cymru's media spokesperson, Jonathan Edwards, comments: "At last a shred of decency in this whole fiasco. While this decision could have been made much sooner by the Murdoch corporation, it is the right one. It is unthinkable that the BSkyB take-over could have gone ahead given all these spiralling revelations. David Cameron's links in employing ex-News International staff has seriously drawn his judgement into question over this whole issue. It is now vitally important that we get to the bottom of the unravelling mess at News Corporation."
16:03 – And now we've got the full Clegg comment. "This is the decent and sensible thing to do. Now that the bid has been called off and a proper inquiry set up, we have a once in a generation chance to clean up the murky underworld of the corrupted relationship between the police, politics and the press."
16:18 – Don't know if you've heard of Avaaz – the petitioning website which has done so much to jam media secretary Jeremy Hunt's inbox with complaints about the BSkyB deal. Well they really galvanised opposition to the bid. Their executive director, Ricken Patel, isn't done yet. "The people won this, but it's not over. We're saying 'never again' to Murdoch's abuse of media power – it's time for our regulators to declare him not fit and proper to own a broadcaster in the UK."
16:38 – The Guardian has responded to the claims made during PMQs about what Cameron knew when he appointed Coulson as head of communications at Downing Street. It's a very long statement, but it is important, so I'm copying it here in full: "Before the last election the Guardian was unable for legal reasons to report the full details about a private investigator, on remand for murder, used by the News of the World under Andy Coulson's editorship. The investigator – Jonathan Rees – had served a seven-year sentence for perverting the course of justice before being rehired by the News of the World when Coulson was editor in 2005. In 2008 he had been charged with conspiracy to murder Daniel Morgan, his former business partner, who was found in a pub car park with an axe in his head in 1987. In February 2010 Andy Coulson was director of communications for the Conservative Party and there was much speculation that David Cameron would appoint him to the same role at Downing Street. On 23 February 2010 the Guardian's Nick Davies emailed Coulson about an article he was intending to write about his paper's hiring of Rees, with full details of his criminal exploits and his involvement with corrupt police officers. The email also referred to two pieces the Guardian had run in 2002 exposing Rees's involvement with corrupt police. Coulson declined to comment. On the evening of 24 February the Guardian ran a story publishing some details of the background to this story. Because of the contempt of court rules, the Guardian could not publish the full story. The paper was not able to name Mr Rees – it referred to "Mr A'. It could not reveal why he had been sent to prison in 2000. It could not reveal that Rees was on remand for conspiracy to murder or even that details of his illegal activities involving the News of the World had previously been reported in the Guardian. Up to this point David Cameron had protested that he believed Andy Coulson's claims that he knew nothing about the illegal behaviour of private investigators on his paper's behalf. The Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, felt that it was important that David Cameron had this piece drawn to his attention and also that he knew about the additional, unreportable details. It was obviously not possible to approach Mr Cameron via Mr Coulson. On or around 24 February the Guardian's deputy editor, Ian Katz, telephoned Mr Cameron's senior adviser, Steve Hilton. He drew attention to the piece. He told him: the identity of "Mr A", that Jonathan Rees had been hired after a seven-year sentence for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by planting cocaine on an innocent woman, that he was on remand for conspiracy in an axe murder, that the full background to his corrupt dealings had been published in the Guardian 2002. The significance was that it was inconceivable that Coulson could have been ignorant about the record and activities of the criminals they were using. Anyone reading what the Guardian had published in 2002 in conjunction with the "Mr A' report in February 2010 would have had serious concerns about Coulson's fitness to be in Downing Street. Hilton has confirmed this conversation. It is not contested that he passed the details to Ed Llewellyn, Cameron's head of staff. No 10 maintains Mr Cameron did not even read the "Mr A" report of 24 February – although he now maintains that it contained "the lion's share" of the information about the Rees case. That suggests that even the publicly available disturbing allegations about his press aide were not brought to his attention. As the election neared, the Guardian's editor also informed the Liberal Democrat Party leader, Nick Clegg, about the matters that were unreportable. This was in an email sent on 5 April. It has been reported that Clegg was "stunned" by what he had learned and that he cautioned Mr Cameron against appointing Coulson. Rusbridger also passed on the information to Lord Ashdown. Lord Ashdown has confirmed that he sent a warning to Downing Street in May 2010. Mr Cameron says the Guardian's editor did not raise the matter at two meetings on 30 March 2010 and 3 March 2011. The first meeting – to discuss the upcoming election – was with four Guardian executives and was after the warning had gone via Hilton. The second was after Coulson had left Downing Street and is thus irrelevant. The prime minister has suggested that the Guardian did not raise any concerns about Coulson after deputy editor Ian Katz's conversation with No 10 director of strategy Steve Hilton in February 2010. In fact Katz met No 10 chief of staff Ed Llewellyn at the Conservative Party conference on 4 October 2010 and had a further conversation about Coulson's involvement with hacking, as part of a wider conversation of the political scene. In particular they discussed the Rees case, details of which had still not been published because he was still awaiting trial for murder. Alan Rusbridger said: "The prime minister's account of why he failed to act on the information we passed his office in February 2010 is highly misleading. Any ordinary person hearing of the unpublishable facts about a convicted News of the World private investigator facing conspiracy to murder charges would have recognised the need to investigate the claims.'"
16:49 – The most important part of that statement obviously comes at the end where the Guardian editor explicitly accuses Cameron of misleading parliament. The Miliband camp will be going through the timeline of events to see what they can get to stick on Cameron. On the one hand it seems a little desperate. After all, it's a scandal over employing someone because they employed someone else. But with public anger now so evident, events moving at a lightening pace and potentially serious allegations about Cameron's judgement and the behaviour of his chief of staff, it could still turn into something interesting. If you want further proof of that, just assess Cameron's face whenever he's forced to talk about phone-hacking. This just in. Apparently Tom Watson is going to put down a point of order on the Guardian statement that Cameron was 'highly misleading' at PMQs.
16:59 – The other Labour phone-hacking warrior is actually up in the House as I type this, but in his other, less well-publicised, role as shadow minister for political and constitution. He's attacked plans for constitutional reform. The Commons is voting on Lords amendments to the fixed-term parliament bill. I think (I always include caveats in my parliamentary process appraisal) that once that's done we're onto the debate.
17:02 – Gordon Brown is in the chamber. Interesting. There are reports he will speak. The debate starts. Ed Miliband begins.
17:05 – Miliband says it's rare for a debate to start after its conclusion is established. Brown is leaning downwards, looking deeply serious. Miliband thanks Clegg and all the other party leaders – even Green MP Caroline Lucas – for coming. He pointedly leaves out Cameron. He gives way for the first time. Miliband says the debate is about private power against the power of people. "It was right parliament intervened," he says.
17:08 – Miliband is calm, collected, well-paced. He's not self-congratulatory. "The revelations of recent weeks go to the core of this bid," he tells the chamber. Chuka Ummuna, Miliband's former aide, says Brooks and the Murdochs need to come answer questions at the media committee. Miliband says that's "completely right". Poor and misjudged response from a Tory MP asking if Miliband was saying this while eating canapes at Murdoch's party three weeks ago. Miliband urges him to speak with one voice. "Watch and learn, watch and learn," shouts shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan (my least favourite shad cab, tied with Yvette Cooper).
17:13 – For months the government said nothing could be done. Days later the media secretary changed direction. But this decision would have ended up back on his desk before the end of the criminal process without all the relevant factors needed for a decision, Miliband says. "We want a free press, we want an independent press," he says. The Commons is getting a little rowdy. Interesting stuff from the bookies. The odds on David Cameron being the next cabinet minister to leave have been slashed from 100/1 to 20/1 by Ladbrokes. Alex Donohue of Ladbrokes said: "Cameron's at the centre of a surprise political gamble which could prove costly for us."
17:17 – OK, getting a little congratulatory now. Bit of an Oscar speech, as Miliband thanks the people who made it possible (Watson and Bryant, obviously). "I want to pay tribute to you Mr Speaker for the seriousness with which you treated parliament's role in this issue. Today, parliament had an opportunity to speak without fear or favour." He quotes a wonderful Lord Denning quote: "Be ye ever so high the people are above you."
17:19 – Sir George Young stands and says he's a suitable person to respond because this was a day when parliament made its strength clear. Still plenty of Labour heckles about why it's not Cameron. "Today has proved that those commentators who wrote this place off are completely wrong", he says. "This chamber, which some argued was losing its relevance and power, has been leading this debate… all being televised live. No-one can say as they did two years ago that parliament is irrelevant."
17:23 – Angus Robertson, SNP Westminster leader, is annoyed his party weren't invited to yesterday's meeting. Give me strength, Lord. Young reminds MPs of the expenses scandal. He says he sees the parallels. The right approach is political agreement on the way forward, then ensure transparency, and then moving to independent regulation. Point of order from Bill Cash irritates everyone by calling for the terms of reference, which he can't find. They're on politics.co.uk, so I don't know what he's complaining about. "That's a very important point but it suffers from the weakness of not being a point of order".
17:27 – Brown is up. He says it's like old times, including the headline reading 'Brown wrong' in the Sun. He says if he hadn't come to the House for such a debate when PM Tory MPs wouldn't have been so generous. That enrages them intensely. Some start actually screaming "sit down".
17:30 – Brown says he's here to speak for those who could not speak for themselves. "Their private losses were treated like the private property of News International… bought and sold by News International for private gain". He says it's not the misconduct of a few rogues but "law breaking on an industrial scale". He refuses to allow for interventions. More screams of "sit down". Bercow takes one Tory MP to task. "Don't shake your head at me," Bercow shouts. He's having a tough time controlling Tories today. Brown is getting biblical, speaking about an "organised criminal nexus". Apparently a second US senator wants a legal investigation of News Corp. Tories are now screaming "give way". He won't do it.
17:34 – Apparently MPs are running through parliament's corridors to hear the Brown speech (just the third time he's done one since losing power). Brown reminds the House of that 2009 James Murdoch speech where he praised profit over standards. "The aim was to cut the BBC licence fee, force the BBC Online to charge for content, to open up the satellite and infrastructure market and finally to reduce the powers of the regulator Ofcom. I rejected these demands." Cheers in the Commons. Tories still screaming "sit down". Brown strongly suggests that the Sun switched allegiance because he would not offer News International favours.
17:37 – Brown reminds MPs of a headline that read 'Brown killed my son'. That one clearly wounded him. More screams of "sit down". More cheers from Labour. Really nasty feeling in the chamber as soon as he stood up. Certainly no unity here, whatever Miliband was aiming for. Brown says the opposition "reclassified the national interest as the News International interest".
17:41 – Brown says he wanted a full judge-led inquiry on News International. He was advised not to because the illegality had ended, time had elapsed, the News of the World had already been punished, all decisions were checked by the CPS and it would make him look politically motivated. More screams of "sit down". Labour MPs getting enraged, shouting back at Tory MPs to sit down. Brown can barely be heard. Remarkable scenes. Bercow is trying to shut up MPs. He screams "order" so hard it looks like he's going to rupture the veins on his neck.
17:45 – Brown is saying how much he regrets not setting up that inquiry. He says he told Clegg directly to worry about Coulson. "Because of what happened to my children I have had thrust upon me a great deal of evidence relevant to this debate. Damage done in the last ten years to innocent lives was avoidable." As early as winter 2002 The Met met with Brooks to warn of criminality among her staff. He has heard of a stream of orders from News International phone-hacking on a man who was then elevated to be a regional manager. Brown mentions James Murdoch's payouts to some figures, calling it the buying of silence. This is remarkably dramatic stuff. Talk about getting stuff off your chest. It's very rare that a backbencher gets to talk this long.
17:49 – "I have to say to the PM, I believe he will have to widen the remit of the commission of inquiry.. so it examines the abuse of surveillance techniques." Brown, without a trace of irony mentions civil liberties. "What should be our greatest defence against the abuse of power had begun to abuse power," he says. He finally gives way leading to huge cheers on the Tory benches. Jacob Rees-Mogg attacks his high tone and asks about McBride, Brown's disgraced former press help. Brown says that when he's giving new evidence it's strange the Tories should try to shout him down. He gives way. Graham Stuart says News International executives conspired with Labour figures to "smear Lord Ashcroft". Amazing stuff. Uproar. "He knew about it then, why was nothing done?" Brown: "I'm surprised that this debate which started with defending children should end up with the Conservative party more interested in defending Lord Ashcroft."
17:55 – Brown says he'll take one more question "because the Speaker will never call me again". Charles Elphicke says he shares Brown's horror and agrees the police have questions to answer. But why was nothing done when he was in power. To be honest, That's all Brown has talked about since he stood up. Brown says he's tempted to take further interventions but he cracks on. "Ofcom, and I think this is significant" has announced it will apply the fit and proper person test to BSKyB remaining holdings. This illegality "can never happen again", Brown says. And with that, he ends. Steve Richard from the Independent just tweeted, very accurately: "Gordon Brown's first major Commons' speech since election – partisan, moralistic, selective, revelatory, witty and at times devastating."
17:59 – There were Labour claps for that Brown speech. It really was remarkable, even if the House descended into brutal anger. And on that decidedly colourful note, we'll wrap up our live coverage for the day. Well be back tomorrow with all the latest developments as they happen. Get some rest – it's been one more exhausting, historic day in Westminster.